Covid-19 update: SA has dropped below 1,000 new daily cases again, deaths now at 286
- South Africa recorded 918 new cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection up to Monday night, dropping down from a record-high of more than 1,000 new infections reported in the prior 24 hours.
- But testing also slowed down.But testing also slowed down.
- Total confirmed cases now stand at 16,433.
- President Cyril Ramaphosa said that most of South Africa should be at Level 3 by the end of May, though some areas may remain at Level 4.
- For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage.
This article is now archived. Last updated: 22:12, 18 May 2020.
Number of confirmed cases in South Africa: 16,433
People tested: 475,071
After recording well over 1,000 new cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection over the prior 24 hours, South Africa dropped below that psychologically important mark again on Monday.
The country now has 16,433 known cases of infection, health minister Zweli Mkhize said, making for an increase of 918 over the previous day.
But the total number of tests conducted also slowed down, from 21,314 in the previous 24-hour cycle to 14,198 up to Monday night.
Another 22 deaths moved the total death toll up to 286.
For more information direct from the source, see also:
- the official Covid-19 website for South African government information and updates
- the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD)
- the latest statements issued by the national government
- the Twitter stream of health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize
- the World Health Organization's Covic-19 outbreak page
Here's what else know about the Covid-19 pandemic in SA:
Level 3 is coming – for big parts of SA, if not everywhere
In an address to the nation on Wednesday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that most of the country should be in Level 3 of lockdown by the end of the month.
Some areas with high infection rates - particularly cities - may remain at Level 4.
But Ramaphosa indicated that Level 4 restrictions on retail, e-commerce and exercise will be lifted in coming days.
"We will immediately begin a process of consultation with relevant stakeholders on a proposal that by the end of May, most of the country be placed on alert level 3, but that those parts of the country with the highest rates of infection remain on level 4. We will make further announcements after the completion of the consultations. In the coming days, we will also be announcing certain changes to level 4 regulations to expand permitted business activities in the retail space and e-commerce and reduce restrictions on exercise."
Ramaphosa said that without the lockdown, at least 80,000 South Africans could have been infected by now. The death toll could have been eight times higher. While 219 South Africans have died, at a similar stage of the pandemic in the US, there were more than 22,000 deaths.
Ramaphosa said that by delaying the spread of the disease, SA has been able to add nearly 25,000 additional beds available for quarantine, and source and produce substantial quantities of personal protective equipment for health workers, vital medical equipment and other supplies.Field workers have now screened over 9 million people, and SA has conducted nearly 370,000 coronavirus tests. "This is the largest and most extensive public health mobilisation in the history of our country," Ramaphosa said.
He added that government has now introduced an economic and social relief package worth over R500 billion to help companies and South Africans in distress.
The Unemployment Insurance Fund has paid out more than R11 billion to two million employees, while the R200 billion government-backed loan guarantee scheme has started to receive applications from businesses.
At the beginning of May, government paid out an additional R5 billion to social grant recipients. Ramaphosa said that three million South Africans have now applied for the temporary R350-a-month unemployment grant.
He admitted that government at times fell short of expectations."Some of the actions we have taken have been unclear, some have been contradictory and some have been poorly explained. Implementation has sometimes been slow and enforcement has sometimes been inconsistent and too harsh."
"I want to reaffirm my commitment and the commitment of the government I lead to take whatever action is necessary to safeguard the life, the dignity and the interests of the South African people."
Nurses without PPEs will not be allowed to care for patients, health minister says
Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize has affirmed his department's commitment that no nurse will be allowed to care for patients without the appropriate protective equipment as the country battles the spread of Covid-19.
Mkhize was speaking at a candlelight ceremony in commemoration of International Nurses Day at King Edward Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday.MECs for health and some healthcare workers from all provinces took part in the ceremony via Zoom.
Read the full story here
EXPLAINER | Do we know when SA is dropping from Level 4, and what happens at Level 3?
As South Africa enters 48 days since the national lockdown was enforced, and 12 days since the country entered lockdown Level 4, many are asking when restrictions will be eased.
This as a number of the country’s top scientists have argued that an extended lockdown will not serve well in the country’s response to the coronavirus any longer.
South African businesses are also calling for a reopening of the economy, with many having had to close their doors permanently.
Wuhan orders all its 11 million residents be tested for the coronavirus after 6 new cases found
The city of Wuhan on Monday ordered all its 11 million residents to be tested for the coronavirus on Monday after discovering six new cases over the weekend.
Five people from the Sanmin residential compound in the city's East West Lake district tested positive on Sunday. They were all linked to an 89-year-old man who tested positive on Saturday.
The six new cases ended a 35-day run of zero new infections in the city. Before this, the last time Wuhan reported a new case was on April 3.
Read the full story here.
Germany almost tripled its new cases of coronavirus within 24 hours
Germany almost tripled its new cases of coronavirus within 24 hours on Tuesday, around a week after Chancellor Angela Merkel further relaxed the country's strict lockdown.
The country's 'R' rate has also been above 1 for the last three days, according to the institute. An 'R' rate of 1 means that, on average, an infected person infects one other. Anything above 1 means that the outbreak is worsening.
Read the full story here.
A staffer in the Presidency has tested positive for the coronavirus
The Presidency said access to the Union Buildings has been limited, after one of its essential staff members tested positive for Covid-19.In a statement issued on 6 May, the Presidency said all officials who had contact with the staffer would be screened.
It added that President Cyril Ramaphosa and his deputy, David Mabuza, had been "working remotely and not from the Union Buildings since the start of the lockdown", suggesting they weren't in contact with the employee.
"In line with government’s guidelines on the management of Covid-19 cases, steps have been taken to secure treatment of the relevant staff member and to provide support to the member’s family," read the statement.
Back to work can't be business as usual, the government says
Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi says returning to work can't be business as usual.
He was speaking at a media briefing on Sunday afternoon, as South Africa gets ready to open up some business sectors under Level 4 of the nationwide lockdown to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.
He stressed that measures must be in place before businesses open. “These are minimum measures, and employers can go beyond that.”
Measures include limiting the number of workers allowed at a business at any given time, screening for Covid-19 symptoms, adequate sanitising facilities, ventilation, provision for social distancing and the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Employers will ultimately be responsible for supplying workers with PPEs. Two cloth masks must be provided per employee.
Employees must inform the employer of symptoms, failure to do so work will be breaking the health and safety act. Employers must place employees with symptoms in isolation and provide transport to medical facilities. Employers must also inform the health department of any positive cases. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.
Employers must also grant workers who contract Covid-19 paid sick leave.
“I need to make the point, that whilst we depend on the good will of responsible employers, workers also have a responsibility here: to wash or sanitise their hands, to wear the PPEs provided, to keep their workstations clean, and to follow directives in relation to health and safety.
“This is in everyone’s interests – so that everyone remains safe and we curb the spread of the corona virus.”
Nxesi said that 2,226 labour inspections have been conducted to date – the rate of compliance of those workplaces inspected is now at 60%. Basic measures and PPEs are prevalent in most workplaces.
Live-in domestic workers and people who work in households to care for children; the mentally ill; the disabled; the sick; and the elderly can return to work tomorrow, says Nxesi.
Covid-19: Hypertension, diabetes, cardiac disease most common conditions associated with complications as cases rise to 6,783
Hypertension, diabetes and cardiac disease are the three most common co-morbidities associated with serious illness from Covid-19, health minister Zweli Mhkize announced on Saturday night.
South Africa’s cases spiked by 447 on Sunday night to 6,783. Mhkize said that 7,216,777 citizens have been screened via the Community Screening Programme as of 30 April – of those, 72,087 were referred for testing.
Eight new deaths have been recorded, bringing the total to 131.
Other co-morbidities that were seen amongst Covid-19 patients were chronic pulmonary disease, asthma, chronic renal disease, malignancy, HIV, active and past tuberculosis.
Here is a breakdown of deaths by province:
Half of people in Gauteng who tested positive did not show symptoms
Half of the people who tested positive for Covid-19 in Gauteng did not show symptoms and may have gone around infecting others, said Gauteng Premier David Makhura during a provincial command council briefing on Thursday.
Makhura said 17,942 people have been tested so far in Gauteng, as of Thursday.
Currently, 51 people have been admitted to private hospitals in Gauteng and 21 to public ones.
New Level 4 regulations: no cigarettes after all, but exercise in a 5km radius of home
South Africans will no longer be allowed to buy cigarettes when the country enters lockdown level 4 on Friday, cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said.
Individuals will, however, be allowed to run and cycle as long as it is in their neighbourhood, and is within 5km from their home, she said. Group exercises will not be allowed.
Dlamini-Zuma said the government reversed its position on the sale of tobacco products after receiving more than 2,000 submissions about people expressing concern over the health risk it poses.
She said aside from presenting respiratory risks while the country fights a respiratory disease, the coronavirus can also spread as people share cigarettes.
She said inter-provincial travel will remain prohibited, but people will be allowed to travel once-off between provinces if they travelled to a difference province before the lockdown and now have to return to work.
South Africans will also have access to more products in grocery stores, and have hot food delivered. Alcohol sales, however, remain prohibited.
More employers must apply for special UIF coronavirus grant
Government ministers have urged companies to apply for a special grant that the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) pays. So far, R3.3 billion in Covid-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) payments have been made. Applications for some 1.7 million employees have been received, a media briefing on Tuesday heard.
But labour minister Thulas Nxesi says that an estimated additional 220,000 employees could benefit from the payouts, and he appealed companies to apply on their behalf.
Jackson Mthembu, minister in the presidency, says employers are not taking advantage of the scheme on behalf of their workers.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced R500 billion economic support package
President Cyril Ramaphosa in a televised address on Tuesday evening announced a massive R500 billion economic support package to help the country survive the Covid-19 pandemic.
Key announcements include an additional R50 billion towards social grants, R200 billion in guaranteed loans to small businesses, and R20 billion towards managing the outbreak of the virus in South Africa.
Ramaphosa said starting in May, child grant beneficiaries will receive an additional R300, and R500 for the five months thereafter.
All other grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R250 a month for the next three months.
Ramaphosa said all unemployed people, who are not collecting UIF or another grant, will also get R350 per month for six months.
Employees will also receive a skills levy holiday for four months, Paye contributions may be deferred and the carbon tax levy will be delayed.
The funding for his economic support package will be attained by reappropriating R130 billion in the country’s existing budget, and making use of international financial institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the New Development Bank.
Finance minister will table an adjustment budget in this regard, Ramaphosa said.
The president said the country’s economy will have to see a phased reopening as not to see a resurgence of the coronavirus which might overwhelm the health care system. Ramaphosa said he will make an announcement in this regard on Thursday.
He said a social compact will be forged for the future of South Africa's economy which will advance the position of women, youth and persons with disabilities.
"I have faith in the strength and resilience of ordinary South Africans, who have proven time and time again – throughout our history – that they can rise to the challenge," Ramaphosa said.
Please be careful at funerals, health minister begs
Health minister Zweli Mkhize has begged families to observe better physical distancing and hygiene measures at funerals.
"Unfortunately, we have observed that people hug and hold each other at funerals (as part of giving comfort), they cry and cough next to each other, pass a spade to each other to pour the sand, they wash hands in one basin, and have a buffet meal where they use the same spoons to dish up," he said in a statement.
"We wish to warn South Africans, if you attend a funeral and practice any of the above behaviour, you are at risk to be infected to Covid-19."
'You will stop shaking hands'
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist working with the government in the fight against the coronavirus, told News24 that there will be no return to normal following the crisis.
"I am sorry to say that life is not going to be what it was like before. Our lives have changed since 5 March when we saw that first case. [Before] then, it was somebody else's problem.
"Our lives, when we go back after this lockdown, are simply not going to be the same," he said.
"When you go into a business meeting, you will not go and sit right next to the person that you are meeting with. You will automatically now want to keep some kind of distance.
"You will not be shaking hands with the person you are meeting with because you will be deeply concerned that you do not want to be part of spreading this virus."
Surprise rate cut in SA
South Africa's repo rate will fall to a modern-day low of 4.25%, the SA Reserve Bank (SARB) announced on Tuesday, after an emergency meeting of its Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).
The meeting was necessary in part because of the announcement that SA's Covid-19 lockdown would continue until the end of April, Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago said after the announcement.
The committee had been due to announce its next rates decision only on 21 May. The MPC was unanimous in the decision, Kganyago said.
The repo rate has never been below 5% since the introduction of the modern repo system in the late 1990s.The prime interest rate, on which most consumer loan rates are calculate, will now stand at 7.75% as of 15 April.
"The Covid-19 outbreak will have a major health and social impact, and forecasting domestic economic activity presents unprecedented uncertainty," Kganyago said in a statement on the decision.
"With that in mind, the Bank expects GDP in 2020 to contract by 6.1%, compared to the -0.2% expected just three weeks ago. GDP is expected to grow by 2.2% in 2021 and by 2.7% in 2022."
Kganyago flatly refused to speculate on what the level of job losses may be as a result of SA's Covid-19 outbreak and associated lockdown.
SA unlikely to avoid 'wildfire' spread of Covid-19, but lockdown bought time - top scientist
South Africa will likely not be able to prevent the exponential spread of Covid-19, with the full sweep of the disease to probably hit the country later this year.
And although South Africa acted much earlier than other nations in identifying the virus and implementing measures to halt its spread, it has only bought the country time to prepare for what scientists are calling "almost inevitable": a dramatic rise in infections.
This is according to Professor Salim Abdool Karim, the chairperson of Health Minister Zweli Mkhize's Covid-19 advisory group, who addressed a media briefing alongside other scientists on Monday night. It was the first briefing with the country's top scientists since the coronavirus was first reported in South Africa on 5 March.
Everyone in SA should wear a cloth mask in public, says Health Minister Zweli Mkhize
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has recommended that South Africans start wearing cloth masks to help limit the spread of Covid-19, rather than using medical masks reserved for healthcare workers.
"Wearing masks is important. We want to recommend widespread use of masks. We are recommending that people use cloth masks and just make sure there's a three layer kind of thing," he said during a briefing on Friday.
Mkhize said wearing a mask in public places can help slow the spread of the coronavirus, but that other hygiene measures were also crucial.
"Even when wearing a mask, hand-washing and social distancing remain the most important interventions to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
South Africa plans to build nearly as many new ventilators as the entire world needed last year
Before the end of the Covid-19 crisis, South Africa may have manufactured nearly as many home-grown ventilators as the entire world needed in 2019.
The National Ventilator Project – set up after an outpouring of offers from many companies and industries – is now evaluating submissions from those who can help kickstart the manufacturing of non-invasive ventilators.
By the standards of medical manufacturing, the project's goals are hugely ambitious. It plans to have manufacturing underway before the end of April. It then intends to have 10,000 ventilators ready by the end of June, with the capacity to make up to 50,000 more if required.
By one estimate the world needed a grand total of 77,000 new ventilators in 2019.
Governments around the world are scrambling to simultaneously contain the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and to create the medical infrastructure needed to deal with it. As a result, just how many ventilators will be required by mid-year is far from clear, but there are fears that African countries will be in the back of the demand queue.
The National Ventilator Project aims to build devices entirely from locally-manufactured parts, or pieces that are easily available in South Africa.
Read more: South Africa hopes to build 10 000 ventilators by end June – and up to 50 000 more if needed.
Slump in SA crime rate during lockdown
The lockdown has seen a massive fall in South African crime levels, with murder cases falling to 94 in the first week of lockdown, from 326 in the same week last year.
Rape cases dropped from 699 to 101, while assault with intention to inflict grievous bodily harm dropped from 2 673 to 456,
Police Minister Bheki Cele announced on Sunday.Apart from the lockdown, Cele attributed the decrease to prohibition of the sale and movement of liquor since the nationwide coronavirus lockdown started on 27 March.
Judge appointed to monitor cellphone tracking
Kate O'Regan (62), former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, has been appointed to monitor government's tracking of citizens' cellphones.
As of Thursday the South African government can trace the movements of any South African cellphone user back as far as 5 March, in order to fight Covid-19.
That movement data will go into a special database to identify anyone who may have had physical contact with a person known to be carrying the SARS-Cov-2 virus, for possible testing and quarantine.
Users whose locations are traced need not be notified initially, but O'Regan will be given a list of the people affected – after the fact – in order to make recommendations about privacy protections. In the month after the state of national disaster is ended, those who were tracked must be told their movements had been traced.
The database is due to be de-identified, leaving only general data for future study, six weeks after South Africa's national state of disaster around Covid-19 is declared over
Government launched a new support scheme for spaza shops
Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, the Minister of Small Business Development, has announced details of a new government scheme to assist spaza shops. Owners of these shops will get access to buy stock and will also receive bulk-buying discounts at approved wholesalers.
But there will be strict requirements in exchange, including that spaza shops need to be register with the SA Revenue Service, the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission.
Licensed spaza shops are allowed to sell essentials during the lockdown period.
UIF payments will be made via companies, bargaining councils
Minister of Labour, Thulas Nxesi, says his department is receiving many complaints of employees that they are being forced to take leave (also unpaid leave) during the lockdown. This is within the rights of employers, but Nxesi asked companies to promote "social solidarity" during this time.
He thanked companies who have paid their employees in full during the lockdown.
Nxesi said that special disaster benefits will be paid by the Unemployed Insurance Fund, but warned that the UIF doesn't have the capacity to deal with millions of individual claims at the same time. These UIF benefits will be paid via companies and bargaining councils.
An agreement has already been reached in the clothing sector, where the bargaining council will make the UIF payments. "We are moving away from the individual UIF claims, which would simply overwhelm labour centres," the minister said.
All the government money paid to companies and bargaining councils will be audited.
Some employers who are not delivering essential services, are forcing their staff to work. Some companies have obtained fraudulent certificates that they can comply these services. This is a criminal offence, Nxesi warned.
Workers are complaining that employers are forcing them to work without equipment. A number of retailers and manufactures have been closed for this reasons, for lack of protective equipment and failure to ensure physical distancing.
Water department buys all available water tanks in SA
Water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu said her department has bought all the available water tanks, roughly 400 000 in total, in South Africa.
Those tanks will be distributed across the country in areas without running water. Most of the water tanks already distributed are in the Eastern Cape, Sisulu said.
She said charity organisation Gift of the Givers has offered to drill boreholes in areas where tanks will be placed.
Anglo-American Group has also pledged water as well as land for temporary settlement for high density informal areas, Sisulu said.
You are legally required to inform authorities if you know about someone who may have the novel coronavirus.
Regulations last updated in 2017, years before the novel coronavirus behind Covid-19 was detected, means South Africans are legally obliged to report on their neighbours who may be infected if authorities have not yet been informed.
The rules for notifiable medical conditions list mostly specific diseases, such as the plague, but make provision for the emergence of new diseases such as Covid-19.
In terms of the rules, laboratories, doctors, and others in the medical field must report cases of such diseases to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). But other members of the community are required to let healthcare workers know if they so much as suspect someone may have had contact with a carrier.
Failing in the duty to report could come with up to 10 years in jail.
Here's how the symptoms differ between Covid-19, the flu, a cold, and allergies.
If you think you have the virus, phone the National Institute for Communicable Disease on 0800 029 999 for directions on where to be tested.
You can also use the official Whatsapp platform for information and advice, by sending "hi" to 060 012 3456.
Private hospitals will be required to make facilities available to government.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize said that testing mechanisms have been intensified, and some private hospitals will be required to make their facilities available to government.
Mkhize has also called for restricted hospital visits, as he reiterated the need to take extra precautions to prevent escalation.
As of 11 March, SARS-CoV-2 virus is officially considered a pandemic.
"We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction," said World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
A disease is considered pandemic when it spreads around the world – not just to travellers who visit specific countries, but within communities – in a rapid and unexpected fashion.
The declaration is a change in language that seems intended to pressure governments to do more to slow the spread of the disease.
South African insurance companies have started offering Covid-19-specific cover.
South African insurance companies have started offering Covid-19-specific cover, and some are actively advertising this as a benefit to those who have international travel plans.
As a general rule, most travel insurance policies exist to cover unforeseen events, but they exclude coverage for pandemics and epidemics. This means any costs associated with medical expenses, trip cancellation, or disinclination to travel will be at the traveller’s own expense.
You can phone 0800 029 999, day or night, for more information – in theory.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has a toll-free number for the public that deals with Covid-19 questions: 0800 029 999.
With the first case of infection now confirmed, that line will operated 24 hours per day, Mkhize told Parliament.
But on Thursday afternoon, shortly after the announcement, the NICD was apparently struggling with call volumes, with calls going unanswered or being dropped.
If you have a mild case of Covid-19, big medical aid schemes will pay for testing – and you are definitely covered for the most common way it goes bad.
People infected with the virus behind Covid-19, properly known as SARS-CoV-2, can be entirely asymptomatic. Others may have only a mild case, worldwide reports show, much like a cold.
Depending on the nature of your medical aid, and just how comprehensive it is, you may have to pay for both diagnosis and treatment of such a case out of your own pocket, the Council for Medical Schemes said on Thursday.
But if things go bad, you are covered.
Pneumonia is one of the most common complications of Covid-19, the organisation said – and that is a prescribed minimum benefit (PMB) condition in South Africa.
"All medical schemes are required by law to pay for the diagnosis, treatment and care costs for this condition in full, irrespective of plan type or option," the council said.
"Medical schemes are not allowed to fund PMB conditions from a member’s Medical Savings Account".
Some of South Africa's biggest medical aid administrators, Discovery Health, Momentum Health, and Profmed have all indicated their members will be covered for coronavirus testing.
Here are the symptoms to look out for.
The common signs of infection with the novel coronavirus, the South African department of health says, include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
If you experience those or other flu-like symptoms, and have reason to believe you may have been infected (such as recent contact with someone who has travelled to a high-risk country including Italy), the Council for Medical Schemes recommends seeking immediate help at your nearest clinic, hospital, or general practitioner.
But South Africa's department of health advises phoning the NICD helpline rather than going straight to a medical facility:
Should you feel sick after traveling from counties with coronavirus do not go to a health facility or your general practitioner. To avoid spreading the disease call NICD hotline number 080 002 9999 . You will get advise on what to do #CoronavirusInSA #CoronaVirusUpdate #COVID19
— Department of Health (@HealthZA) March 5, 2020
The World Health Organization has released guidelines to help businesses prepare their workplaces.
The World Health Organization has released guidelines to help businesses prepare their workplaces for a Covid-19 outbreak.
Measures include making sure your workplace is clean and hygienic – including objects like phones and keyboards. This means cleaning surfaces like desks and tables and objects (like telephones and keyboards) with disinfectant, regularly. The coronavirus appears to easily spread on surfaces touched by employees and customers.
The WHO also recommends work places install hand sanitiser and soap wash stations.
The coronavirus is thought to spread mainly through droplets, so you need to wash your hands properly.
To reduce your chance of infection, regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Hand-washing takes less than half a minute, yet an estimated 97% of people do it wrong.
"It's recommended that you wash your hands for the amount of time it takes to sing 'Happy Birthday' twice - about 20 seconds," says family physician Dr Sarah Borwein. Twenty seconds has been shown to be the minimum amount of time it takes to really remove germs."
If you don't wash long enough, even with soap, it could backfire.
"Chances are that you are not effectively removing all the disease-causing germs that are lurking on them," Borwein tells Insider.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has a short video with much of what you need to know about coronaviruses.
* This article is constantly updated throughout.
More on office hygiene - here.
More on hand hygiene - here.